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Reform and Conservative Rabbis Dovish on Israel

U.S. rabbis in the Reform and Conservative movements tend to be dovish on Israeli-Palestinian peace policies, according to a study.

Asked whether Israel should freeze settlement building, 62 percent of the rabbis agreed to a “great extent” and 18 percent agreed to “some extent,” according to the study commissioned by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups, which was released Tuesday.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes any such freeze before a final-status agreement with Palestinians. About one-third of the rabbis said they avoided making their views on the topic known, with 18 percent saying their private views are more dovish than those they express publicly and 12 percent saying their views are more hawkish.

The rabbis overwhelmingly expressed attachment to Israel.

“As many as 93 percent say they are very attached to Israel, a figure about double that found in many studies of rank-and-file American Jews,” the study said.

The rabbis tend also to be liberal, with 85 percent approving of President Obama’s job performance.

JCPA in its study emphasized that the survey, conducted online from May to July, was not fully representative.

The 552 rabbis were selected because their names appear on JCPA email lists, some dealing with pro-Israel issues, others dealing with classically liberal campaigns such as gun control.

Additionally, the study noted, “opt-in” survey results are seen as “suggestive” and treated with greater caution than surveys that seek random samples.

Very small percentages of the respondents were Orthodox and Reconstructionist, JCPA said, and 70 percent of the rabbis worked in congregations.

“The non-representative nature of the sample obviates strictly generalizing to the universe of American rabbis,” the study said. “However, the pattern of relationships between and among measures can nevertheless prove instructive, as the findings point to patterns that are consistent with side knowledge and social theory.”

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